High-tech Western weapons ‘useless’ in Ukraine conflict – WSJ

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Satellite-guided shells are particularly vulnerable to Russian jamming technology, commanders in Kiev have told the newspaper

Russia’s electronic warfare capabilities have rendered precision-guided Western munitions “useless” in the Ukraine conflict, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. With their guidance systems scrambled, some of these weapons have reportedly been retired within weeks of hitting the battlefield.

When the US announced the delivery of GPS-guided Excalibur artillery shells to Ukraine in 2022, pro-Kiev outlets predicted that the $100,000-per-shot projectiles would make “Ukrainian artillery a whole lot more accurate” and “cause Russia a world of pain.”

However, the Russian military adapted within weeks, Ukrainian commanders told the Wall Street Journal. Russian signal-jamming equipment was used to feed false coordinates to the shells and interfere with their fuses, causing them to veer off course or fall to the ground as duds. 

“By the middle of last year, the M982 Excalibur munitions, developed by RTX and BAE Systems, became essentially useless and are no longer employed,” the newspaper stated, paraphrasing the Ukrainian commanders.

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The Soviet Union invested heavily in electronic warfare (EW) during the 1980s, viewing jamming technology as a crucial bulwark against the guided missiles and shells that the US was beginning to develop at the time. While weapons such as the 1990s-era Excalibur shells were used by the US to devastating effect in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials and analysts in Washington have since concluded that they are far less effective against a peer-level opponent like Russia.

“The Russians have gotten really, really good” at interfering with guided munitions, US Deputy Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante told the WSJ. 

Retired US General Ben Hodges, who once predicted that Western weapons would help Ukraine seize Crimea by last winter, told the newspaper that “we probably made some bad assumptions because over the last 20 years we were launching precision weapons against people that could not do anything about it… and Russia and China do have these capabilities.”

Some of NATO’s most advanced weapons systems have met a similar fate in Ukraine. The newly-developed Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), a joint project of Boeing in the US and Saab in Sweden, was given to Ukraine earlier this year, with Kiev’s troops firing these GPS-guided munitions before their American counterparts. However, it has since been pulled from the battlefield after it proved completely ineffective against Russian EW.

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Likewise, Russian EW has significantly blunted the accuracy of Ukraine’s Western-provided GMLRS missiles, which are fired from the HIMARS multiple-launch rocket system, Ukrainian soldiers told the WSJ. As with the Excalibur shells, GMLRS missiles were once described by pro-Kiev pundits and analysts as a “game changer” that would swing the conflict in Ukraine’s favor.

Russia has long insisted that no amount of Western weapons systems will prevent it from achieving victory. Supplying these weapons is a “futile project” that will only encourage Kiev to “commit new crimes,” Moscow’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov, warned last week.

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